Ugly green padding protrudes from a worn pleather couch in an empty lot at the corner of Shelbourne Street and Cedar Road.
As a Saanich municipal truck pulls in, its driver wearily eyes the abandoned furniture before radioing his location to colleagues. It takes another half hour before a larger truck arrives with a bed full of discarded mattresses, recliners and other dated garbage bound for Hartland landfill.
“As a manger of solid waste, I like to see a little more pride in the community,” says district manager Dave McAra after hearing of the latest haul.
The “free-cycling” and illegal dumping phenomenon is nothing new in North American municipalities, and Saanich is no exception.
“It’s definitely a minority of material being picked up by others, but anything of quality is usually put up online immediately by residents. The rest is left for us,” McAra says.
Saanich’s solid waste services is allotted $80,000 to deal with illegal dumping each year, though assistance from other departments means the real cost is actually higher, he says.
Refuse is predominantly made up of couches and mattresses, though dated cathode ray tube TVs regularly dot Saanich boulevards as well.
“The TVs are frustrating, because they’re free to drop off at recycling centres under the province’s stewardship program,” McAra says. “Sometimes they’re dumped three blocks away from a recycling station.”
Mayor Frank Leonard says it’s difficult to identify those responsible for the dumping of abandoned furniture, though a healthy student population combined with an esimated 9,000 rental suites is undoubtedly a factor.
“There are a lot of very responsible students, but it does seem with the turnover of the campus community, we can get a few broken futons on the street,” Leonard says.
Add Saanich’s vast rural network of dead-end roads and illegal dumping headaches are never-ending for municipal workers, who keep a close eye on dumping hot spots when they can.
“It’s a problem that’s not going away,” Leonard says.
The most effective way to identify illegal dumpers is to grab a licence plate number and call bylaw officers, who can follow up with registered car owners. And when garbage crews are feeling like sleuths, they get their hands dirty by sifting through dumped garbage bags for identifying mail and other documents.
“We’re sometimes able to go through garbage and figure it who it belongs to, but there’s not much in the way of ID on a broken futon,” Leonard says.
McAra says staff plan pick-ups in the most efficient way – usually a once-per-week pick-up sweep – to keep costs down, but he hopes residents take a more proactive approach to catch culprits.
“The important factor is it’s not just Saanich,” McAra says. “The City of Victoria deals with it, Oak Bay deals with it, but it needs to be addressed across North America somehow, because it’s costly for municipalities.”
DID YOU KNOW?
- Over 75 per cent of mattress material is recyclable. Furniture and mattresses at the end of their useful lives can be dropped off at Hartland landfill (1 Hartland Rd.) or Ellice Recycle (524 David St., Victoria) for a fee. See crd.bc.ca or ellicerecycle.com for rates.
- Most electronics and kitchen appliances can be dropped off free of charge at both sites under the province’s product stewardship program. TVs, styrofoam, florescent lighting tubes and small appliances are also accepted for recycling at St. Vincent de Paul Society (2-3956 Quadra St.), London Drugs and The Bottle Depot (4261 Glanford Ave.). Search “B.C. Product Stewardship” online for more information.